Professional wrestling is viewed by many as a laughing stock but this film opens up the gritty, often disturbing realism behind the spandex.

Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, who remembers performing in front of thousands but now earns grubby notes in front of a handful of drunken fans at weekends with the occasional shift at the local store for good measure.

Living in a New Jersey trailer park - or his clapped out van when unable to pay the rent - he is out-of-touch and out-of-time, his battered old body increasingly unable to defeat the passage of time.

How he copes with his own mortality and a future without wrestling is the film’s key plotline.

Director Darren Aronofsky quickly deals with the fakery of the sport itself as wrestlers meticulously choreograph each fight with their opponent, before the sheer athleticism and artistry required by the performers shines through in violent and wince-inducing wrestling scenes.

The often shaky, hand-held camerawork gives the film a documentary feel in places with Robinson's slow trudging through mundane, daily life a sharp contrast to the frequent excitement when in the ring.

Rourke’s performance has been much acclaimed and rightly so. He brings a searing honesty to Robinson’s character as we sympathise with his problems, laugh at his jokes and despair at his pig-headed idiocy.

Fine support arrives in the shape of Marisa Tomei as Robinson’s stripper friend Cassidy, while Evan Rachel Wood plays his estranged daughter with whom he tries - eventually unsuccessfully - to reconnect with.

Despite the dark tone there are numerous lighter moments, a fan pleads for his prosthetic limb to used to beat an opponent during one fight, while Robinson's initial efforts working on the deli counter are smile inducing.

While the film's finale becomes increasingly obvious - as glimmers of hope appear in Robinson’s life only to be quickly extinguished - it is nevertheless a gripping, emotional and fitting climax.